One Question is a regular series in which we ask leading thinkers to give a brief answer to a single question.
This time, at the beginning of 2020, we ask:
Are you optimistic about the new decade?
With responses from: Leo Zeilig; Zillah Eisenstein; Prabhat Patnaik; María Pía Lara; Minqi Li; Lindsey German; Doug Henwood; Dario Azzellini; Heikki Patomäki; Henry A Giroux and Ourania Filippakou; Richard Falk.
Two major developments will be central to the next decade – and consequently for the rest of the century.
The last decade ended as it began, on the streets, in occupations and in revolutionary possibilities. The constant grind of capitalism ensures that nothing settles for long. No counter-revolution is secure, but nor is the mighty political riposte from below. The movements of popular classes across the world, in strikes, protests and uprisings, will continue to take place in societies riven by economic, political and increasingly ecological crises that not only generates terrible human misery but recurrent rebellions.
The arch of protest that we saw at the end of the decade, emerging first from Sudan, then Algeria, and breaking out elsewhere, Chile, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, will continue this decade. However, popular forces must generate the new organisations and politics that the radical Left need, and that can power these uprisings and revolutions to create real anti-capitalist alternatives. If this does not happen, as we have seen repeatedly in the past, the movements will, at best, only yield a recycled elite – a renewal of austerity, under new leadership. A genuine alternative for the world will require action, agency and intervention.
The second major development, not unconnected to the first, will be intensification of climate activism in the 2020s. September last year saw seven million people strike together to insist on action to save the world from a climate emergency. While the major protests were in the Global North, activists also mobilised across Africa and the Global South. From 20-27 September, there were protests in Nairobi, Cape Town, Kampala and Lagos. Demonstrators marched and petitioned in their hundreds, and occasionally thousands.
In the protests in Africa many made the fundamental point that although the continent has caused little of the climate crisis, it is extremely vulnerable to its effects. The economic system of boundless consumption and ecological exhaustion is at the heart of the climate crisis and must end this decade – but like all things, it will only end with pressure from mass movements and activists prepared to take on the polluters and their government backers.
The life and death of millions will depend on these two possibilities – radical anti-austerity revolutions and uprisings, linked to militant anti-capitalist environmentalism. There have been few decades as decisive as the one we now face. READ MORE